HMYOI Brinsford - a poorly performing young offender institution

Brinsford had deteriorated markedly in almost all respects, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution near Wolverhampton.

HMYOI Brinsford is located on a site adjacent to Featherstone and Oakwood prisons. It holds young men aged between 18 and 21, many of whom are from the West Midlands. At its last inspection in 2012, inspectors found some improvements to the prison but generally mixed outcomes, with some significant criticisms of safety, the quality of the environment and the prison’s disappointing approach to resettlement.

This inspection found that hardly any of our concerns had been addressed effectively and that in almost all respects the prison had deteriorated markedly. These are the worst overall findings the Inspectorate has identified in a single prison during the tenure of the current Chief Inspector. Across all of our four tests of a healthy prison, inspectors found outcomes to be poor.

Inspectors were very concerned to find that:

  • the services in place to assess the individual risk and needs of prisoners and to offer support in the early days were poor, with an unwelcoming reception, chaotic procedures and weak induction;
  • levels of violence were comparable to similar establishments but remained too high and structures to reduce violence and tackle bullying lacked rigour;
  • support for, and the case management of, those in crisis was poor;
  • the application of security measures was inefficient, sometimes disproportionate and not well integrated;
  • mandatory drug testing indicated usage was nearly three times the prison’s own target;
  • the general environment was, with the exception of one unit, very poor, with squalid cells, a significant number of which had window panes missing and were not fit for occupation;
  • the promotion of diversity was weak;
  • during the working day, 44% of prisoners were locked up doing nothing and time out of cell for some was very poor;
  • there was insufficient work or activity for the whole population, the Offender Learning and Skills Service education contract was not being fully delivered and inefficiencies in the routine meant many learning or work sessions were disrupted; and
  • work to support the resettlement of prisoners remained weak, with no strategy, no effective policies, no needs analysis and inadequate leadership.
Health services were generally very good and the best feature of Brinsford.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Brinsford is a prison that has struggled for a number of years. Work with young adults is very challenging and facilities in the prison are not ideal but this is an establishment that needs significant improvement. When we spoke to staff and managers they were aware of the problems but seemed overwhelmed, and they lacked a plan or the determination to begin to get to grips with what needed doing. We found so much wrong with Brinsford that it is going to take time to improve, but stronger leadership and capability from managers, along with a better approach and greater professionalism from staff, would be a start.

“It was appropriate that a new governor was appointed shortly after the inspection. He has made a vigorous start on making the necessary improvements but it is still very early days. We continue to have very serious concerns about the prison and it will take sustained effort by all those who work at Brinsford, with the support of the Prison Service nationally, to bring the establishment to a safe and decent condition.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“At the time of the inspection in November 2013, Brinsford was struggling to cope with a challenging population and its performance had deteriorated to an unacceptable level.  Following the inspection we took immediate action to improve conditions.  A new Governor was appointed and urgent work was done to improve safety, ensure decency and increase activity.
“The prison is now clean, safe, ordered and is operating to an acceptable standard.  There is more to do to ensure this rapid progress is maintained and embedded but the Governor has a clear strategy in place and has the full support of his staff.  I am confident that when inspectors return they will see a much improved establishment.”

Notes to editors

  1. Read the report
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. This unannounced inspection was carried out from 4-15 November 2013.
  4. HMYOI Brinsford is a young offender institution and remand centre for prisoners aged 18 to 21. It also detains a number of people subject to immigration controls.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Prisons Press Office on 202 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.